How to Streamline Stairlift Installs for Home Access

Sponsored by EZ Access

Many patients, whether due to age, injury or other medical condition, become unable to safely negotiate the stairway in their home. Not surprisingly, being unable to enjoy the full use of their homes can be an extremely jarring experience. Their condition has not only robbed them of their mobility or strength, but it has also robbed them of part of their home.

Fortunately stairlifts can solve that. Using a stairlift, a patient can continue living normally in his or home environment, having full access to each floor of the household. There are a wide variety of stairlifts available to fit nearly every type of stairway.

Moreover, the market for stairlifts is expanding as the country grows older. For instance, already Baby Boomers who care for older parents who have difficulty safely negotiating the stairs are naturally concerned about their parents falling down the stairs. Why should their parents be forced to sell and move into a one-story in a down real estate market when they can simply make their stairs safer with a stairlift?

Installing stairlifts can be a fairly straightforward process in terms of actually spinning wrenches and turning screws, but an easy installation depends on careful up-front preparation and assessment. (As the saying goes, “measure twice, cut once.”) What do providers need to do in order to streamline stairlift installations?

Evaluate the home and staircase. Every stairlift installation is unique. While there are various safety codes for ensuring that stairs are built to standard specifications in order to ensure safety, every patient’s situation is going to be unique, so you need to go to the site and assess the situation. There are a multiplicity of considerations:

  • The distance between the edge (or “nosing”) of the first step to the landing at the top of the stairs and the angle of that measurement.
  • The width of the staircase to ensure the chair and rider will fit safely.
  • The side of the staircase that the railway and chair will follow.
  • The closest power outlet at either the top or the bottom of the staircase
  • Enough room at the bottom of the stairway to accommodate the tail-end of the rail on which the chair is usual parked. This could create an obstacle that could cause someone to trip and fall, or simply obstruct movement around the bottom of the stairs.

Also, ask the patient if there are other factors that might affect the installation, or that the stairlift installation should accommodate. A site visit also gives you an opportunity to do a spot assessment of the patient’s living situation and homecare situation. You might discover other home access or homecare needs that you can address.

Furthermore home evaluations give you a chance to build rapport with your patients and hopefully develop a relationship that ensures they see you as a key resource for their homecare and HME needs.

Curved stairways. Now all stairways are straight. Many homes — particularly older homes — have stairways that include turns and curves that the stairlift must negotiate. There are stairlifts designed for curved stairs, and the tightness of the curve will determine the unit. Some are designed for wider, sweeping curves, while others fit much tighter curves. Some chairs can even negotiate spiral staircases. In such cases it is critical for the provider to undertake an extensive evaluation to determine degrees of curves and related variables.

Note that stairlifts that can negotiate curved staircases are more expensive than units that run on straight tracks. This is because the curved stair installations are essentially custom jobs. Manufacturing tracks that follow the curves of the stairs requires more expensive, hands-on manufacturing. Essentially, the unit that arrives at the patient’s home is a one-of-a-kind solution.

Landings and L-shaped staircases. Many staircases do not form a simple, straight line. In order to save space, many stairways are interrupted by a landing mid-way, and then double back on themselves before reaching the second floor. Or the stairs reach the landing and them form an “L” shape. Either instance presents its own challenges.

L-shaped stairs or similar arrangements, will typically require a double installation. This means that two rails and two chairs, one for the bottom of the stairs to the landing, and another from the landing to the top of the stairs. An alternative for L-shaped stairs and stairs that double back on themselves are pre-curved stairlifts that wrap around the landing.

Cost. Ultimately, cost is usually the deciding factor. In terms of expense, the most economical solution for an installation are straight stairlifts, and the most expensive stairlifts being curved units. For stairs with landings, pre-curved stairlifts are in fact typically more expensive than a double installation.

Points to take away:

  • Various patient segments need stairlifts to ensure full use of their homes.
  • The need for stairlifts is growing as the population gets older. Demand comes from not only older clients, but their adult children, as well.
  • The actual installation of stairlifts can go smoothly as long as the HME provider first conducts a careful and thoughtful home evaluation.
  • There are stairlifts to accommodate curved stairways, but they are more expensive and require even more measurement and preparation.
  • Stairways with landings require either double installations or pre-curved units that follow the stairs.

Learn More

To learn more about stairlifts and other home accessibility products, visit our home access product listings.


This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of HME Business.

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